Scholz to visit China in spite of ‘de-risk’ voices

Despite calls to decouple from China, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is set to embark on a three-day visit to China with the aim of shoring up ties with the country, fostering areas of practical cooperation, Chinese observers noted as the leader prepares to arrive on Sunday.

Experts stated that China's bilateral practical cooperation with the economic powerhouse Germany has the potential to cut through "de-risking" voices and further enhance China-EU relations. During Scholz's visit, China and Germany are expected to sign a series of agreements, enhancing collaboration in sectors such as renewable and clean energy.

At the invitation of Premier Li Qiang of the State Council, German Chancellor Scholz will embark on an official visit to China from April 14 to 16, Mao Ning, a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Friday. 

Scholz will meet with President Xi Jinping during his visit. Premier Li Qiang will also hold talks with the German leader to exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of common concern.

The chancellor is also expected to travel to Southwest China's Chongqing and deliver a speech at a university in Shanghai. In addition to trade matters, discussions will also address the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, according to Steffen Hebestreit, spokesperson for the German government.

"Currently, Germany is facing serious internal and external challenges. Scholz's visit to China holds significant political significance," Zhao Junjie, a research fellow from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, told the Global Times on Friday.

Domestically, its GDP growth rate is relatively low at the moment, combined with high inflation and other factors, such as industrial relocation following the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This has led to negative sentiment as Germany also insisted on following the actions of the US. Additionally, many manufacturing industries in Germany are currently reluctant to invest domestically, including companies like Siemens and Volkswagen, Zhao noted. 

Scholz is reportedly travelling with CEOs from leading German companies during his trip, including top executives like Roland Busch from Siemens, Ola Kaellenius from Mercedes-Benz, and Belen Garijo from Merck KGaA.

"The most important outcome of Scholz's visit will be to establish a solid basis for cooperation and exchange. We hope that by personal exchanges across a range of different topics, a mutual understanding of key issues can be achieved," Maximilian Butek, chief representative of the delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Shanghai, told the Global Times.

Speaking from the perspective of German companies, those would include topics related to trade and implementing a level playing field for foreign companies in China, Butek said. 

Since last year, the EU has put forward a so-called "de-risk" and "cooperation, competition and partnership" position in regard to China. Meanwhile, the US continues to hype the challenges that China's economy poses to the US and Europe, with some voices claiming that the EU might cooperate with a US review into China-related supply chains launched in December and investigate EU companies' purchases of Chinese-made chips.

"Rather than being politically kidnapped by certain factions calling for decoupling from China or catering to media unfriendly to China, the pragmatic Scholz has realized that embarking on a diplomatic track that balances bilateral interests with China is the way out for him to address both internal and external challenges," Zhao told the Global Times. 

In 2023, Germany's foreign direct investment in China reached a peak. The latest annual Business Confidence Survey by German Chamber of Commerce in China showed many companies expressed confidence in China regaining robust growth within the next five years.

"Scholz values pragmatism. I believe that the Chinese and German governments will definitely sign a series of bilateral agreements, in sectors such as renewable energy and clean energy, as well as finances and technology. This agreement may bring greater benefits to Germany," Zhao said. 

China always views Germany as its important partner of mutually beneficial cooperation and supports Germany in playing a more important role in Europe and the wider world. China and Germany have benefited from each other's development which has contributed to the welfare of both peoples. The two countries have steered China-EU relations on a steady and sustained course and injected more stability to the world, Mao said.

Observers project that Germany's pragmatism will overcome containment, ideological conflicts and have a halo effect, contributing to the healthy development of China-EU relations, Zhao noted. 

"The relationship between China and Europe mainly depends on the twin engines of Germany and France. If Germany can cooperate pragmatically with China and achieve results, then next, France will follow," Zhao noted. 

As Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated on April 1, since the beginning of this year, China and the EU have restarted exchanges at all levels and carried out all-round cooperation in various fields. Europe has a more rational understanding of China and a stronger willingness to cooperate with China.

"Amidst the prevailing uncertainty, the resilience of bilateral economic and trade cooperation will remain unchanged. Whether it is at a steady or slow pace, progress will continue. Eventually, it will be understood that pragmatic cooperation will be the mainstream position between China and Germany, and containment or ideological conflicts are fleeting," Zhao said.

Radioactive incident in Russian city bordering China has no impact on Heilongjiang: Chinese authority

China's National Nuclear Safety Administration announced on Wednesday that radioactive sources in Khabarovsk in Russia's Far East near the border with China have not affected neighboring areas in our country. The 24-hour monitoring in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province has shown results within normal levels, and no abnormalities have been observed.

The topic of "radioactive sources found in the Russian city just about 60 kilometers from the border areas of Heilongjiang" has been trending in recent days on Chinese social media, and some netizens raised concerns about the potential impact on the livelihoods in the Chinese province. 

Authorities in Russia's far eastern city of Khabarovsk have declared a state of emergency in an area where a "radiation source" was found, Reuters reported on Friday, citing TASS news agency.

It said elevated radiation levels were detected near a power pylon about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) from residential buildings. No one had been injured or exposed to radiation and "there is no threat to the health of citizens," according to the media report. 

The department of ecology and environment of Heilongjiang is closely monitoring the situation, the Chinese administration said. In recent days, the atmospheric radiation environment automatic monitoring stations in the province have been continuously monitoring the gamma radiation dose rate and collecting aerosol samples 24 hours a day. And the monitoring results are within normal levels, and no abnormalities have been observed, it noted. 

In Heilongjiang, there are a total of 27 automatic monitoring stations for atmospheric radiation. Among them, in the Fuyuan and Tongjiang areas of Jiamusi city, there are two automatic monitoring stations which are closest to the Khabarovsk region, approximately 60 kilometers and 210 kilometers away, according to a post published by department of ecology and environment of Heilongjiang on Wednesday. 

On Tuesday, the mayor of Khabarovsk signed an order declaring the lifting of the local state of emergency, which was imposed due to the discovery of a source of radioactive contamination (a cesium-137 capsule on an industrial flaw detector, which has since been transferred to specialized regulatory authorities), the Chinese Consulate-General in Khabarovsk said in a post published on Tuesday. 

According to an announcement from a local emergency authority, the radiation levels in Khabarovsk city on Tuesday ranged between 0.09 and 0.13 microsieverts per hour, within normal standards (within 0.26 microsieverts per hour), the consulate-general said.

This incident did not have any adverse effects on residents' health or the surrounding environment. Currently, production and daily life in Khabarovsk city are back to normal, it noted. 

An unnamed expert from the Heilongjiang provincial institute of atomic energy was quoted in the post of the department of ecology and environment of Heilongjiang that if the detected radiation source is confirmed to be a "radiation source," and its stainless steel outer casing is intact with no damage, its contents are not dispersed or lost, and it does not contain other nuclear materials or substances, and Russia has safely placed the radiation source in a container and sent it to a temporary storage facility for radioactive waste, then the radiation levels at the site of the incident will return to normal levels, posing no ongoing radioactive impact on the local area and no harm to human health.

"A great deal of attention to this incident on Chinese social media mainly stems from the recent Moscow terrorist attack, which makes people nervous and worried about the potential use of 'dirty bombs'," Zhang Hong, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Anything happening in the neighboring regions between China and Russia would affect China, so we take it very seriously, the expert said, noting that previously there have been similar incidents such as pollution in the Songhua River, and China promptly notified Russia about it.

There used to be a mechanism for joint notification between China and Russia after similar events, including environmental disasters. However, this time, the response from Heilongjiang Province mainly came from our own side rather than through formal notification, and when Russia discovered it, they included it as part of their media reports, Zhang noted. 

"This indicates that there is still room for improvement in terms of environmental safety cooperation between China and Russia," he said.

Chinese scientists develop new chipless fiber for human-machine interaction

A research group from Donghua University in Shanghai has developed a new type of smart fiber that can achieve human-machine interaction functions such as luminous display and touch control without relying on chips and batteries.

The research was published in the Science journal on Friday, and is regarded as offering new possibilities for changing the interaction mode between humans and the environment.

The magazine noted that working electronic components into fabrics is challenging because they usually require rigid batteries or chips, but the author of the research showed the potential for wireless digital interactions with a number of simple examples.

The research proposes using the human body as a conduit for energy interaction. This principle promotes a new energy interaction mechanism known as "human body coupling." With specific functional materials added, the fiber achieves functions like touch control, luminous display on fabric, and wireless command transmission.

The group has been focusing on the field of light-emitting fiber materials for about five years. "In one experiment, we accidentally discovered that fibers emit light in a radio field. Based on this, we proposed a new type of smart fiber with a 'non-von Neumann architecture,' integrating functions such as energy harvesting, information sensing, and transmission into a single fiber," said Hou Chengyi, a researcher from the Advanced Functional Materials Research Group at Donghua University.

The new type of fiber also offers comfort and stability. "Through testing, we found it skin-friendly. We've tested its stability and practicality for two years, and the results have been relatively stable," Hou told the Global Times.

In the future, the group aims to produce clothes with the smart fiber that are as comfortable to wear and as intelligent as smartphones. However, there are still obstacles to overcome before the products can be sold, such as signal interference and the durability and stability of the fiber.

Videos of PLA's live-fire drills along China-Myanmar border released; troop's rapid mobility, precise targeting honed

China has released videos of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command's live-fire drills on the Chinese side of the China-Myanmar border. The drill aims to test the rapid mobility, precise targeting, comprehensive blockade, and joint strike capabilities of Chinese forces.

According to a video released by China Central Television, as the exercise officially began, the Air Force aviation, Army aviation, armored infantry, artillery, air defense forces and others rapidly mobilized to the designated exercise area to conduct joint live-fire exercises in different zones and at different times.

Under unified command, the participating forces are organized according to combat formations, launching systematic and coordinated operations, meticulously planning and organizing joint armed patrols, joint reconnaissance and early warning, joint air defense control, and joint firepower strikes in a realistic exercise.

At the same time, multiple firepower strike groups quickly entered predetermined positions to conduct precise joint strikes on targets indicated in real time and from multiple directions.

A ground firepower strike group composed of remote multiple rocket launchers, vehicle-mounted self-propelled howitzers, and mortars quickly occupied launch positions. Various types of weapons alternate to unleash firepower in rounds from multiple directions, carrying out precise fire coverage on firepower points hidden in mountainous jungles.

After multiple rounds of sustained fire, a vehicle-mounted self-propelled howitzer team immediately moved to a new designated area, quickly organized the layout of the position, completed ammunition loading, and carried out intense firepower suppression on the target indicated by the on-site instructions. Many shells whistled toward the target location, and after multiple rounds of heavy firepower, the target was fully destroyed.

This drill is designed to be practical, with multiple scenarios coordinated in advance, real troops and equipment mobilized, long-distance rapid maneuvering, and continuous implementation over multiple days. The key focus is to test the force operations and rapid maneuvering, precise targeting, three-dimensional control, and joint strikes of theater forces, demonstrating the determination, will, and ability of the PLA to resolutely defend national sovereignty, border stability, and the safety of people's lives and property.

The PLA Southern Theater Command deployed army and air forces to conduct live-fire drills on the Chinese side of the China-Myanmar border starting from Tuesday, Tian Junli, a spokesperson at the PLA Southern Theater Command, said in a statement on Tuesday, stressing that the command has been prepared at all times to respond to various emergencies and is committed to safeguarding national sovereignty and border stability.

In an article published on the PLA Daily on Thursday, it said that this drill aims to test the combat capabilities of the troop in rapid maneuver, precise destruction, three-dimensional blockade, joint strikes and other abilities, in order to be prepared to respond to various unexpected situations at any time.

In recent times, conflicts in northern Myanmar have resurfaced, intensifying the tense situation due to various reasons. China and Myanmar are connected. The conflict in northern Myanmar threatens the security and stability of the border areas between the two countries, as well as the lives and property of both sides' border residents. As a friendly neighbor of Myanmar, China pays close attention to the current situation in northern Myanmar and urges all parties involved to immediately cease fire and strive to achieve a de-escalation of the situation as soon as possible.

This exercise is part of an annual training plan, indicating that frontline troops have been maintaining normalized combat readiness training for a range of missions. The exercise involves coordinated participation of army and air forces, focusing on testing the troops' maneuverability, precision and strike capabilities, which is in line with operational requirements for responding to current security situations, Zhuo Hua, an international affairs expert at the School of International Relations and Diplomacy of Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times.

Zhuo said that China and Myanmar share a long border, and their cooperation is comprehensive and wide-ranging, especially in steadily advancing cooperation projects of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor. Therefore, the security and stability of Myanmar directly affects the interests of the two peoples.

Remains of five Chinese nationals killed in terrorist attack in Dasu brought back to China by Pakistani aircraft: FM

The remains of the five Chinese victims who were killed in the terrorist attack on the Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan were brought back to China on a Pakistani military plane, escorted by Pakistani high-level officials and a working group from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Monday.

The five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in a suicide terrorist attack on March 26 at the China-invested Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

On March 29, China's inter-agency working group to Pakistan and diplomats from the Embassy in Pakistan visited relevant hospital in Rawalpindi city, Punjab province in eastern Pakistan to mourn the five Chinese victims and convey sympathies and support from the Party and the Government to the staff of the Chinese companies present there, Wang said.

Wang emphasized that China firmly supports Pakistan in looking into what happened with utmost resolve and effort, bring the perpetrators and whoever's behind the attack to justice and do everything possible to protect the safety and security of Chinese personnel, projects and institutions in Pakistan.

On Sunday evening, the Pakistani government held a farewell ceremony for the five Chinese citizens who died in the terrorist attack at the Nur Khan airbase in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong, Pakistani officials, diplomats from the Chinese Embassy and representatives of Chinese enterprises in Pakistan attended the ceremony, according to a release from the Chinese Embassy to Pakistan.

Jiang said in a speech at the ceremony that the Chinese compatriots who were in the flower of their youth, came all the way to Pakistan from afar and have made important contributions to promoting Pakistan's development and advancing China-Pakistan friendship and cooperation.

He said that the Chinese side hopes and believes the Pakistani side will speed up the investigation, strengthen its counterterrorism efforts and take all measures to ensure the security of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Pakistan.

"We stand ready to work with the Pakistani side to unwaveringly promote our all-weather strategic cooperation to accelerate the building of an even closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future," said the Chinese ambassador.

Chaudhry Salik Hussain, federal minister for overseas Pakistanis and human resource development, expressed deep condolences to the victims at the ceremony. He strongly condemned the terrorist attack and said that Pakistan has always stood with the Chinese government and people.

Pakistan will thoroughly investigate the incident and find out the truth as soon as possible and bring the perpetrators to justice, he said, adding that any attempt to undermine the friendship between Pakistan and China will be doomed to failure.

Bringing back deceased beloved ones through AI technology becomes a new, controversial business in China as ‘era of digital humans’ approaches

Editor's Note:

Big models, robots, intelligent manufacturing, autonomous driving… In recent years, AI (artificial intelligence) has frequently made headlines around the world, becoming a hot topic of discussion. The emergence of generative AI programs has also caused unemployment anxiety.

The development of technology has indeed brought challenges in various aspects such as ethics and law. But at the same time, many experts advocate that human should see technology as a tool, with the ultimate purpose of serving humanity, making human life and work more efficient and comfortable.

In real life, AI has already permeated all aspects of human society, helping with scientific research in laboratories, assisting in the restoration of mysterious ancient scrolls at archaeological sites, and helping to find abducted children in the vast sea of people.

In light of this, the Global Times has launched the "AI empowers industry, improves people's livelihoods" series, showcasing the tremendous energy and broad prospects that AI brings to various industries.

This is the first installment in this series. In this story, we explore how AI helps people reconnect with their loved ones from beyond the grave, make up for lost time, and continue family ties in the virtual world.

"Mom, I want to eat Moo Shu Pork."

"Okay, let me prepare the meat. I'm going to tell you when I'm done."

Zhu Rui's mother replies with a smile. Wearing a rosy pajama with a big Mickey Mouse caricature on it, the lady in her 60s sits in a chair with her hands naturally folded. She looks at her son with tender eyes - from the computer screen.

This is a small conversation between Zhu and his "digital mom," an interactive virtual role that Zhu recently made with AI technology. The virtual mother looks so lifelike that it looks as if Zhu is having a video call with his real mother, instead of a program built based on numerous AI algorithms.

After suffering from cancer for five years, Zhu's mother's diagnosis sadly took a turn for the worse this year. His deep love for his ailing mother pushed Zhu to make a digital doppelganger of her, which can help carry his memory of his mother in the near future.

Zhu is among a growing number of Chinese people who try to make digital doppelgangers of their deceased or elderly family members. With the rapid development of AI technology, the"digital resurrection" of deceased loved ones is practically becoming an industry in the country, with controversies following close by, of course.

'Digital mom'
The so-called "digital resurrection" is based on historical data such as photos and videos, using AI technology to reproduce the voice, image, and behavior of deceased individuals, generating similar outputs.

The first time Zhu heard of "digital resurrection" was in the spring of 2023. He watched various "digitally resurrected relatives" online, thinking about making a digital doppelganger of his mother, who, in his words, probably doesn't have much time left.

"While taking care of my mom, I hoped that I could make a digital version of her, as a special memory that she can leave for her loved ones," Zhu told the Global Times. "I'm in a race against time. I want to get the thing done while she is still here."

Zhu said he was perhaps the first-ever person in China to make a digital doppelganger of a family member who is still alive. Unlike creating a digital doppelganger of the departed loved one based on limited materials, Zhu could take as many photos and videos of his mother as possible to make his "digital mom" more realistic.

It, nonetheless, took Zhu some time to convince his mother. "The older generation knows very little about AI technology. My mom had no idea what a 'digital doppelganger' was; she felt it a bit strange [about the concept], but anyway, she trusted me unconditionally," Zhu said. "We are closest to each other in this world."

As the co-founder of a tech company, however, Zhu was not as familiar with AI himself at the very beginning. Step by step, he taught himself a series of AI models and tools that helped create his "digital mother," from Kimi and GPT-4 to popular applications including Midjourney and Heygen. Within some 20 days, this fast learner successfully created a preliminary version of his "digital mother" with the help of his AI industry friends.

Zhu clearly remembers the first time his "digital mother" eventually appeared on screen and smiled at him. It was around 5 am, after he had stayed up all night making some final adjustments. He was impressed but actually "not very excited." "This version was not yet perfect due to my limited time and skill," said Zhu. "I thought I could do better."

In February, a video telling Zhu's story about making a "digital mother" went viral online, drawing people's attention to this new way of cherishing the memory of their loved ones. Zhu said that he is thinking about making a miniseries based on the ordinary Chinese people who try to create their "digital families." It will be a nonprofit project aiming to discuss topics like life, death, family, and love under the context of AI technology, he added.

For those who would like to be a part of the project, Zhu said he may help them create a "digital family" for free. "I hope that a digital doppelganger can help relieve the pain of those who lost their loved ones," he told the Global Times. "This is the meaning of AI technology."

Emerging business

As early as 2016, HereAfter founder James Vlahos built a chatbot that responds like his dead father, or Dadbot, based on data left by his father. People quickly got in touch with Vlahos after the creation of Dadbot, asking if he could make them bots of their own.

In China, "digital resurrection" caught the public's attention during the Qingming Festival in 2023 when an influencer on Bilibili uploaded a clip of his AI-revived grandma.

The business was cast in the spotlight again recently after Chinese renowned musician Tino Bao (Bao Xiaobo) unveiled to the public his "revived" daughter with AI technology.

Zhang Zewei, founder of AI company Super Brain in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province, told the Shanghai Observer that his team has completed more than 1,000 "resurrection" orders. With the Qingming Festival approaching, they receive four to five dozen related inquiries every day, the Shangguan Observer reported on Wednesday.

Most of Zhang's users have a similar starting point to Zhu. They all have a strong desire to "see their loved ones again"; some families have lost their only child in middle age, and the parents are unable to overcome the pain of losing their child; and some people have lost their partners of many years, and are hoping to see the person they miss day and night again, even if it's just a brief glimpse on the screen.

However, the innovation also comes along with controversies.

Recently, a video blogger "resurrected" late stars through AI without obtaining permission from the stars' families. The father of late Chinese singer-actor Qiao Renliang has required the video blogger to remove the video and said that the move reopened his old emotional wounds.

Many netizens and law experts also characterized the move as offensive to family members of the deceased and violated portrait rights and privacy, calling for more complete and detailed regulations and management to catch up with the impact of the market of the rapid development of AI technology.

A search on Taobao with the keywords "AI, digital life, resurrection" on Wednesday yielded hundreds of results. According to these results, customers can get an audio clip of their late relatives by paying 99 yuan ($13.6), get a video clip of late relatives talking by paying 198 yuan, and interact with "resurrected relatives" via a certain app if they pay 498 yuan.

One of the stores also claimed to provide a service that teaches customers to create a digital life. Customer service representatives at the store told the Global Times that the app was developed by themselves and "it was very easy to learn." Tuition and the app jointly cost only 1,000 yuan, according to the customer service representative.

A more important problem may be the overly realistic interaction of the digital doppelganger, as Zhu said. "It is a double-edged sword that offers users a very good immersive experience, but may also bring huge hidden troubles."

Smooth, natural conversations are supported by the strong computing power of the AI models, which is very expensive. What if one day, the customers cannot afford the money and have to turn "the digital relative off?" Zhu questioned.

Moreover, overly realistic and natural interaction may make people addicted to the virtual world. Especially for those who lose their loved ones,"they may feel it is harder to move on," Zhu said.

Era of 'digital humans'

But Zhang still expresses full optimism about the business. He believes that with technological progress, the concept of "AI resurrection" will continue to evolve. In the future, there will be more AI digital human products such as digital immortality and digital companionship, in addition to a short video or a chatbot.

Some other observers echoed Zhang's sentiment. They pointed out that "digital resurrection" is an emerging subdivision of digital humans while the industry is moving toward a new stage of AI-driven, tool-based, and low-cost with the empowerment of large models.

At present, digital humans mainly appear as intelligent customer service representatives on e-commerce platforms and public service portals, and they are also showing huge application potential in the consumer market, such as in the field of education. But as technology advances and demand evolves, the application market for digital humans will further broaden. It is a trend for more middle and small teams flooding into the industry to provide human solutions for small merchants and individuals, according to industry insiders and observers.

In the future, virtual digital humans will become more intelligent. They will gradually possess the ability to see, understand, and express themselves, allowing AI-generated and driven virtual digital humans to more comprehensively and deeply integrate into various fields such as film and television, finance, and cultural tourism.

Zhang Rui, founder and executive director of the Art Robot company in Beijing, told the Global Times that an AI product may be able to understand and express human feelings in 5 to 10 years.

According to data from iMedia Research, in 2022, the market size of this industry reached 12.08 billion yuan, while also driving the surrounding market size to reach 186.61 billion yuan. It is estimated that by 2025, the core market size of virtual digital humans will reach 48.06 billion yuan, and the surrounding market size driven by such growth may be close to 640.27 billion yuan.

Regulations are also on the way. In 2019, China issued principles of next-generation AI governance. In 2021, the country published the "Ethical Norms for the New Generation Artificial Intelligence," aiming to guide activities in the entire lifecycle. In 2023, China further released its regulations on deep synthesis Internet information services and Interim Measures for the Management of Generative Artificial Intelligence Services to boost AI development while safeguarding cybersecurity.

Chinese social media platforms have also enacted specific measures for users in terms of producing AI-generated content, vowing strict punishment for those who violate the rules by using AI to generate virtual characters to publish content that goes against scientific knowledge, fabricates information and spreads rumors.

The era of one "digital human" per person is coming, industry insiders said.

GT investigates: How the Philippines colludes with US government, think tank and media in 'sadfishing' itself, demonizing China on South China Sea issue

The Philippines has been making a show of the South China Sea issue for a long time. It has repeatedly provoked China and created tension in the South China Sea region while turning a blind eye to historical facts. Seemingly suffering from a sort of histrionic personality disorder, the Philippines has not only staged many farces on the issue, but also colluded with anti-China forces in the US-led West to play the thief crying "stop thief."

Last week, during his visit in the Philippines, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly "criticized China's provocative actions" in the South China Sea. Portraying the Philippines as a victim and China as a "perpetrator" has become a common intrigue to win attention and sympathy in the international community.

Supplying to its vessels illegally grounded on China's sovereign islands in the South China Sea is a trick of showmanship that the Philippines has employed in recent months. On Saturday, it sent a supply vessel and two coast guard vessels to intrude into the adjacent waters of China's Ren'ai Jiao (also known as Ren'ai Reef) in disregard of China's strong opposition.

"China's Coast Guard took necessary measures at sea in accordance with the law to safeguard China's rights, firmly obstructed the Philippine vessels, and foiled the Philippines' attempt," Chinese Foreign Ministry stated that same day.

Days earlier, Philippine civil group the Atin Ito coalition said it was planning another mission to the South China Sea with the aim of "delivering aid to fishermen" around China's Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island). According to Philippine media, the group openly claimed to mobilize "a delegation of international observers" to join their mission. It didn't seem to mind making the involvement of Western forces public.

"What it's like on board an outnumbered Philippine ship facing down China's push to dominate the South China Sea (CNN, March 26)," "China coast guard flexes its might against the Philippines in disputed waters as journalists look on (The Economic Times, March 27)"… It's not exaggeration to say that most media stories that smear China on the South China Sea issue, whether by Philippine or Western media, are products of the collusion between the anti-China forces of the Philippines and the US-led West.

The Global Times has looked into some of the various collusion forms, trying to reveal what's behind the current numerous untrue and misleading "media reports" that one-sidedly support the Philippines and attack China.
Closely linked Philippine coast guard, 'civil groups,' and US scholars

The Atin Ito coalition disclosed its new "supply mission" plan at an event it held in Manila on March 14. The event gathered senior officers from the Philippine military and government, and representatives from the British, Australian, Dutch, Swedish, and European Union embassies, local media Palawan News reported the following day.

The guest list implied that Atin Ito has never been an ordinary "civil group." Close sources told the Global Times that the group was led by Risa Hontiveros, an anti-China senator who once asserted raising the notorious 2016 South China Sea "arbitration" to the United Nations General Assembly. Last winter, Hontiveros planned a "Christmas supply" mission for Atin Ito, asking the group members to send food and goods to a military vessel "stationed" at Ren'ai Jiao with the help of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Atin Ito had tried to land on Huangyan Dao and plant the Philippines flag on the island in June 2016. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a US scholar Anders Corr was among the group's activists aboard the fishing boat that intruded into the adjacent waters of the island.

All the information has reflected that the so-called "civil groups" resupplying Huangyan Dao and Ren'ai Jiao are "nothing but a farce jointly planned by a few Philippine politicians and military, as well as the anti-China forces in the US-led West," Yang Xiao, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Strategy Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

In an article published on March 6, The Associated Press (AP) introduced a PCG strategy of publicizing "aggressive actions" by China in the South China Sea, which aims to "spark international condemnation that has put Beijing under the spotlight." This strategy is known as "offensive transparency."

"We will continue [with the strategy]," PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said in February.

Joining the PCG in 2005, Tarriela allegedly has numerous links with the US. In 2021, he was largely involved in bilateral US-Philippine collaboration, including in the Pacific Forum's US-Philippines' Next Generation Leaders Initiative, a project sponsored by the US Department of State, through the US Embassy in Manila.

According to an article by The Philippine Star in December 2023, Tarriela was considered a representative of the "pro-American faction," and even faced "CIA agent" accusations on social media.

Raymond Powell is another name frequently mentioned in the Philippines' "offensive transparency" strategy.

A retired US colonel, Powell is the founder of the security think tank Project Sealight, and leads the "Project Myoushu" at Stanford University in cooperation with the PCG and some Philippine Foreign Ministry officials.

The main purpose of the project is to support the "offensive transparency" strategy and help create a "victim" image for the Philippines on the South China Sea issue.
US journalists invited on board

On March 5, two supply vessels and two coast guard vessels from the Philippines, illegally intruded into the adjacent waters of Ren'ai Jiao of China's Nansha Qundao, in an attempt to send materials, including construction materials, to the vessel illegally grounded at Ren'ai Jiao. The China Coast Guard took strict regulatory action to curtail the Philippine vessels' intrusion.

It is worth noting that the Philippines' mission included journalists from CNN, who said they witnessed a "high-stakes confrontation" that day, and wrote features that described their experiences on board in detail.

The CNN reporters wrote it was "the first time foreign journalists have been allowed to embed with the fleet in decades." But in fact, more than 10 years ago, US media reporters had boarded Philippine official vessels, including supply vessels, and wrote distorted media reports based on their first-hand experiences.

Early in 2013, The New York Times reporter Jeff Himmelman had been to the "Sierra Madre" vessel illegally grounded at Ren'ai Jiao for an interview, and later described the confrontation between China and the Philippines at South China Sea as "a game of shark and minnow" in a feature story.

Himmelman revealed that before they arrived they had "already hooked things up" with the local officials and the Filipino Navy.

In recent years, US journalists have been frequently invited on Philippine ships to participate in the PCG's "missions." In 2023 alone, two AP reporters and several other media staffers were invited aboard three PCG vessels that protect supply ships in November. In April 2023 the PCG reportedly invited many journalists, including those from the AP, to join a 1,670-kilometer "patrol."

According to a Chinese correspondent who worked in the Philippines for many years, there is a large number of US journalists in the Philippines. The Philippine authorities maintain close contact with foreign journalists in the country, and therefore, "it is easy for the authorities to seek cooperation from US journalists," said the correspondent who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The PCG's purpose of inviting journalists on board is to deliberately amplify the possible "incidents" through media, and to launch defamation warfare against China, the correspondent told the Global Times. "But I think [directly taking CNN reporters on board the PCG vessels] is excessive, and is even a sort of 'dishonor to the country,'" the correspondent added. "There is resentment within the Philippines, too."

US-funded Philippine media

Searching online media coverage on the South China Sea, one may find that Philippine and US media outlets are particularly close. They quote and forward each other's South China Sea stories, working closely together in attacking China on this topic.

Some of the major Philippine media outlets that are active in reporting on South China Sea include Rappler, VeraFiles, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Having called themselves "independent", these media outlets turn out to be are reportedly funded by the CIA and the US' infamous National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In 2019, journalists from the aforementioned three media outlets were accused of receiving payments from the CIA, "a potential criminal offense under local law." The accusations claimed that the CIA uses the NED to channel funds, and the three media outlets "receive substantial grants from the NED," said the organization Committee to Protect Journalists in May that year.

VeraFiles, for instance, started receiving funds from the NED since 2016.

The NED website shows that, so far VeraFiles has got five batches of money from this US government-backed foundation, totally $350,600. It's far from a small amount for a media outlet without full-time reporters (only three editors and two web technicians). But VeraFiles has never disclosed how it spent the money.

Obviously, the Philippines has deeply colluded with the US government, think tanks, and media from top to bottom in "sadfishing" itself and demonizing China on the South China Sea issue. Worse still, such a nasty trick by the Philippines may become normal and diversified in the future, said Chen Xiangmiao, director of the World Navy Research Center at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

In response to the slander, Chen suggested China fight back with strong facts including on-site images, videos, and objective data. "We should make it clear to the international community what China's claims are in the South China Sea," Chen told the Global Times. "Do not let the US and the Philippines skew international public opinion."

Senior officials from Sri Lanka, Nepal start China visits; closer ties expected

Senior officials from Sri Lanka and Nepal began their official visits to China on Monday, with Chinese analysts expecting their trips to further enhance the two countries' ties with China and to promote cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to cope with the various challenges in their economic development.  

Meanwhile, some people in India who have always viewed Sri Lanka and Nepal as being within New Delhi's sphere of influence are paying close attention to the visits. Analysts stressed that friendship and exchanges between China and Sri Lanka and Nepal are long-standing and are not targeted at any third party. They said that regarding other countries as being within one's own sphere of influence only exposes one's hegemonic mentality and goes against the trend of the time. 

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena arrived in Beijing on Monday for a six-day official visit to China at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang. Gunawardena was received by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister and former ambassador to India Sun Weidong upon his arrival, according to the videoclip released by CGTN on Monday. 

Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Narayan Kaji Shrestha is also expected to land in Beijing on Monday. His official visit to China is scheduled from March 25 to April 1. 

According to a previous briefing by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian, the visit is Shrestha's first overseas trip after taking office as Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Lin said China stands ready to work with Nepal to take this visit as an opportunity to deepen political mutual trust, pursue high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, expand exchanges and cooperation in various areas and strive for new progress in building a China-Nepal strategic partnership of cooperation.

Talking about the Sri Lankan prime minister's visit, Lin said the leaders of the two countries will have an in-depth exchange of views on carrying forward traditional friendship, deepening political mutual trust, expanding practical cooperation, and international and regional issues of common interest.

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times that both Nepal and Sri Lanka, as important countries in South Asia, have maintained close cooperative relations with China for a long time, and the exchanges and friendship between China and these two countries have basically not been affected by the changes in their domestic politics.

Both Nepal and Sri Lanka are currently facing a lack of momentum in their economies, and both regard China's development as an important opportunity for their own development, and both seek to further synergize their strategies with BRI, so as to inject more impetus into a sustainable and healthy economic development, Qian said. 

According to Qian, Nepal is seeking more cooperation with China in infrastructure construction, cross-border trade, agriculture and poverty alleviation. Sri Lanka also hopes to further communicate with China on easing its debt pressure.

The visits come against the backdrop of extensive hype over claims of a "debt trap." 

Ahead of the Sri Lankan prime minister's China visit, Indian media hyped Colombo's decision to halt recurring visits by Chinese research ships to Hambantota port as being a result of "India's security concerns." They also hyped concerns over China's "debt diplomacy," when China is actually not the largest creditor to Sri Lanka.

"It's apparent that India regards Sri Lanka and Nepal as being within its own sphere of influence, but when the two countries ran into difficulties in their pursuit of development, India did not help solve their problems," Zhao Gancheng, a research fellow from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Monday. 

According to Zhao, Sri Lanka and Nepal are facing pressure from India, but both are seeking to maximize their interests and both will try their best to seek deeper cooperation with China.

China is either a neighbor or close to many South Asian countries, and China respects the will of these countries to independently develop their diplomatic relations, Qian said, noting that China has developed normal political and economic relations with these countries that are not targeted at any third party. 

India's belief that its neighbors should remain within its sphere of influence is a very arrogant view with a hegemonic mentality, and is also not in line with the trend of the times, Zhao said. 

US employing 'Cold War' strategies in information campaign against China

Recently disclosed information revealed that the CIA has been secretly operating on Chinese social media in recent years, attempting to shape public opinion about the Chinese government in targeted areas, which, analysts warned, not only demonstrates the modern application of Cold War-era strategies but also highlights the significance of information warfare in current global politics, undermining regional stability and normal development.

Reuters recently reported that former US officials with direct knowledge of the highly classified operation disclosed that former US president Donald Trump authorized the CIA to initiate secret operations on Chinese social media platforms, aimed at swaying public opinion in China against the Chinese government in certain regions.

This covert operation began in 2019 and had not been previously exposed. US officials declined to provide specifics about these operations, according to the report.

Reuters mentioned that CIA spokesperson Chelsea Robinson declined to comment on the existence, objectives, or impact of this operation. The impact of these secret operations is not known and neither has it been confirmed as to whether the Biden administration has continued them.

However, CIA Director Bill Burns recently wrote in "Foreign Affairs" that the US has increased its resources for intelligence gathering, analysis, and operations against China. Over the last two years, the CIA's budget for work related to China has more than doubled, with an increase in recruitment and training of Chinese-speaking staff and intensified competition with China in Latin America, Africa, and the Indo-Pacific region.

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday at a daily press conference that the US, while often accusing other countries of spreading disinformation, is in fact the true breeding ground of disinformation. "Spreading disinformation cannot inhibit China's progress but will only discredit the US," he said.

Carefully-selected targets

According to the report, the CIA's operations intended to alter public sentiment within China and specific countries such as those in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific region by spreading false information and negative narratives.

The three former US officials told Reuters that the CIA formed a special agent team that spread negative information about the Chinese government using fake online identities and relayed derogatory content to foreign news organizations.

Observers specializing in these regions have felt the ripples caused by these actions.
Gu Xiaosong, dean of the ASEAN Research Institute at the Hainan Tropical Ocean University, said that Southeast Asia has always been crucial for the US in formulating its foreign policy. To advance its Indo-Pacific strategy, the US needs this region as a pawn to suppress China's rise.

The US seeks to provoke competition between Southeast Asia and China, thereby affecting China's image in the region. For example, it depicts China as a threat to Southeast Asia, accuses China of obstructing so-called "freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea, and plays the common trick of spreading irresponsible remarks.

In the South Pacific region, when China advanced its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), media influenced by the US and the West extensively propagated terms like the "debt trap" and "militarization" in association with China.

When China initiated the BRI in the Pacific region, the US and Australia repeatedly warned the island nations about the potential "debt traps" posed by Chinese projects. However, most of the debt in these countries is still predominantly held by the US and Australia, Yang Honglian, a Fiji-based senior researcher at the Pacific Islands Research Center at Liaocheng University in Shandong, told the Global Times in a previous interview.

While the US accuses China of creating debt traps in these nations, it also established the US International Development Finance Corporation with a budget of $60 billion to offer alternative financial assistance.

In the current dynamics of the Pacific island nations, Western media maintains a strong presence. Western countries label positive reporting by Chinese media while promoting the use of Associated Press news in the local media for free, Yang said.

"These are the countries that China has offered a development alternative that is geared toward win-win partnership rather than patronizing and conditional aid," Karanja Ngina, an observer on African affairs, noted. "The US has treated many of these countries and regions like discarded toys," he added.

Now, faced with the undeniable growth brought about by partnership with China, the US wants its discarded toys back, not for the purpose of doing better what China is doing well, but to stop any form of progress from taking place, Ngina said.

Countries that threaten US hegemony or refuse to politically or financially align with the US-led West are soon engulfed in never-ending wars under the pretext of "bringing democracy to the people." While countries not seen as valuable financial or geopolitical assets are ignored, only ever used as pawns to advance the US' agenda, Ngina noted.

Savvy tricks

The methods of the secret operation revealed this time are not new maneuvers by the US; even Reuters mentioned the intense information warfare waged by the US against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

During the Cold War era, the CIA was involved in disseminating 80 to 90 articles daily aimed at destabilizing the Soviet Union. The report quoted Loch Johnson, a University of Georgia political scientist who studies the use of such tactics, who said that covert messaging by the US could influence certain audiences.

Declassified documents reveal that, during the 1950s, the agency even established an astrology magazine in East Germany that featured ominous forecasts about communist leaders, according to Reuters.

In recent decades, the US has established news and cultural media outlets specifically targeting certain nations. Radio and television networks, fostered by the US and funded by the government, broadcast propaganda against targeting countries in dozens of languages around the clock.

Using false information as a tool to attack other nations has become an "industry chain" of disinformation, including financial backing (referred to as "black gold"), spreading negative narratives ("black theories"), and using media mouthpieces ("black mouths") to influence international opinion, analysts noted.

In recent years, some bizarre and false narratives about China have emerged. These include exaggerated claims about China's political and economic influence, misinformation about its social systems and policies, and unfounded allegations regarding its global intentions. Such narratives often gain traction through social media and certain news outlets, contributing to skewed perceptions and misunderstandings about China in the international community.

One example of such false narratives is how a few US media outlets and opinion leaders absurdly described Lujiazui, Shanghai's bustling financial district, as a "ghost town" to denigrate China's economy. People soon realized that the images showing empty streets in Lujiazui were taken from carefully chosen angles and at specific times to create a misleading impression.

Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, told the Global Times that the increasingly aggressive nature of US and Western allies' media campaigns against China amidst the China-US competition, aiming to weaken China's soft power and influence globally.

He lamented the transformation of public opinion into the tool of geopolitical rivalry, highlighting targeted efforts to undermine harmony between the Chinese public and the government, potentially jeopardizing China's decades of peaceful development.

Countering disinformation

Amidst the intensifying US-China competition, actions characterized as media campaigns against China have reportedly escalated misunderstandings, eroded trust, and heightened tensions, contributing to regional instability. Observers note that these campaigns could undermine political and social stability in specific areas, with long-term repercussions.

In response, China has been bolstering its cybersecurity measures, enhancing information scrutiny, and promoting international cooperation to counter these information warfare tactics.

The narrative of China as a reliable partner contrasts sharply with accusations from the US, such as the "debt trap" theory associated with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China's efforts aim to clarify its foreign policy and improve its image abroad, countering negative portrayals and advocating for a narrative of mutual benefit and non-interference, experts noted.

Li emphasized the necessity for China to protect its public from Western media's malignant influence and initiate more constructive dialogue with positive forces in the West. This approach seeks to encourage a rational policy perspective and strengthen ties with Global South countries, thereby exposing and countering Western disinformation strategies.

Strengthening cooperation with China the national consensus in Pakistan: ambassador

Editor's Note:

China and Pakistan share a strong and enduring friendship that dates back to the 1950s, and the China-Pakistan relationship is a shining example of strong bilateral ties based on mutual respect and shared interests. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is also a flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that aims to enhance connectivity and trade between the two countries. How will the CPEC develop in the next decade? How does Pakistan envision the development of ties with China? Global Times reporters Xie Wenting and Chu Daye (GT) spoke with Pakistani Ambassador to China Khalil-ur-Rahman Hashmi (Hashmi) on these and other crucial matters.
GT: As the new Pakistani Ambassador to China, what are your priorities? What has impressed you most about China so far?

Hashmi: The topmost priority for me is threefold: a) to further deepen the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between our two countries; b) to solidify the bonds of friendship between our two peoples; and c) to implement the consensus reached between the leadership of our two countries.

This is my second tenure in China, and I've been thoroughly impressed by the progress made by China in the last 15 years. The first thing that struck me when I landed in Beijing in November last year was the massive improvement in air quality. However, air quality is just one aspect of the very well-rounded development in diverse sectors including human, social, technological, and economic development. All these facets have witnessed steady and positive development. That's what has impressed me the most.

GT: In what new areas do you hope China and Pakistan can further enhance cooperation?

Hashmi: I believe cooperation between Pakistan and China is already very multi-dimensional, covering almost every area. For example, we have just completed 10 years of intense and multidimensional cooperation under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the pioneering project of President Xi's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The first phase of CPEC was primarily focused on two things: infrastructure (including transport infrastructure) and energy. Both these areas are key ingredients for any economy to grow rapidly. The first decade of CPEC has laid important ground for fast-tracking development. Moving forward, it will be important to prioritize industrial cooperation and industrialization, including through promoting special economic zones and attracting and facilitating new investments. We welcome Chinese enterprises and businesses to invest in diverse sectors such as agriculture, mining, information technology, textiles, engineering, and electric vehicles.

GT: Will changes in the Pakistani government impact bilateral relations between China and Pakistan?

Hashmi: Over the 73 years, Pakistan-China relationship has become very solid and assumed unique characteristics in terms of inter-state relations. Ours is a relationship that is not affected by internal developments in either country or regional and international events. That is why we refer to it as an ironclad relationship that has stood the test of time. In Pakistan, there is a national consensus across political parties and various segments of society on further strengthening our bilateral ties with China.

With the recent elections, a new government is being formed, and I am confident that it will play its role in further bolstering our strategic cooperative partnership with China.
GT: Could you elaborate on Pakistan's plan for the next decade of development within the CPEC?

Hashmi: I would use three terms for next phase of CPEC: connectivity; infrastructure, and industrialization; and agriculture.

Connectivity is a multidimensional concept including but not limited to physical, digital, and people-to-people connectivity. One tangible outcome in terms of physical connectivity is the optimization of the Mainline-1 railway project.

As for industrialization, we are looking at the prioritization of certain sectors. Currently, there already is the prioritization of four special economic zones. I personally visited one of these zones in Pakistan (Rashakai Special Economic Zone in Kyhber Pakhtunkhwa province) recently. We are taking steps to speed up operations so that more companies can come and invest. We are also establishing a free trade zone at Gwadar.

Agriculture is another area receiving a lot of focus these days. We would be looking at collaborating on projects related to seed technology, drip irrigation techniques and induction of modern agricultural machinery.

GT: Could you provide us with some details regarding the progress of the Mainline-1 project?

Hashmi: We are making steady progress. China Railway Administration completed a technical study in late of the Mainline-1 project. They have assessed the project to be commercially feasible. The project can sustain itself and will pay off in the long term.

Our two sides are now looking at the next steps, including formal approval within our own system, following procedures, and then finalizing the financing agreement.

GT: What is your opinion on the efforts made by certain Western media outlets to portray CPEC as a so-called "debt trap" for Pakistan?

Hashmi: For me, I see it as no more than propaganda or political opinion, and not facts.

It is important to see things in perspective. The industrial development - infrastructure, energy, road infrastructure, and port infrastructure development - entails huge investments. Developing countries find it extremely difficult to mobilize financing for such projects. It has always been the case that developing countries seek different means of financing. What has happened is that over a period of time, these big projects were done through the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and similar organizations.

Unfortunately, the funding available within these organizations has decreased and the gap has been filled by China. So, instead of criticizing China, China should, in fact, be appreciated because it has made that financing available again to so many countries in the developing world.

As I mentioned, infrastructure and energy are key ingredients that lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth, jobs, and livelihoods. Countries rely on grants, investments, and concessional loans for these projects. Concessional loans have low interest rates by definition. After investing in infrastructure and energy, the economy begins to grow. Industrialization cannot succeed without sufficient energy and transport infrastructure. As economic activity increases, more businesses and investors come in, generating more revenue. This revenue not only pays off the loans but also sets the stage for rapid economic growth.

GT: Given the security challenges in the region, including the spillover effect of terrorism in Afghanistan, how does Pakistan cooperate with China on security issues to ensure regional stability?

Hashmi: We have had very close cooperation and coordination consultation with China for many years on several levels. When it comes to security issues in the region, especially with respect to Afghanistan, we have a trilateral mechanism involving Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China.

Pakistan and China also have special representatives on Afghanistan. There is a lot of consultation and coordination underway, as well as goodwill to help Afghanistan be economically viable. There is a willingness to help Afghanistan overcome its challenges in security and the economy among others. It is clear that without addressing the security challenges, which are exacerbated by groups like ISKP and TTP, it is very difficult to make the economy work, promote economic growth, create jobs, stimulate economic activity, or develop infrastructure.

The amount of money and effort spent on building infrastructure can be destroyed by these groups, as has been the case in the past. It is therefore important that relevant authorities in Afghanistan pay attention to the concerns that have been expressed by neighboring countries on security issues, because it is a common concern for their neighboring countries.
GT: What specific measures will Pakistan take to protect Chinese personnel and enterprises operating in Pakistan?

Hashmi: The safety and security of Chinese persons in Pakistan continues to remain a priority for Government of Pakistan. We have established a dedicated division of security forces for protection of Chinese personnel, enterprises, and projects related to the CPEC. Of course, we are aware that there are detractors, countries and entities that seek to disrupt or damage Pakistan-China relations or economic cooperation. We have seen many examples before. It is a multi-dimensional issue where there are actors and entities both inside and outside of the country that we need to pay attention to, closely monitor their nefarious activities, and defeat them.

GT: We noticed the recent reports regarding the evidence of India's support of terrorist forces in Pakistan. What's your take on this?

Hashmi: We have shared concrete information and evidence about Indian involvement in previous years. I am referring to India's state apparatus, state agencies, and state operatives who have been involved in sabotage and terrorist activities directly targeting the CPEC and Chinese personnel in Pakistan. Much of this information and evidence has been shared with United Nations and many western countries over the years.

India's nefarious designs are exemplified by the case of a serving Indian Navy commander who was arrested by Pakistan in 2016, who confessed to planning, organizing, financing, and carrying out terrorist activities inside Pakistan at the behest of Indian authorities. This is just one example. There are other cases that substantiate Pakistan's consistent position about Indian involvement in acts of subversion and terrorism on Pakistani soil.

India has on record publicly opposed the CPEC; which is pioneering project of BRI, and a symbol of strong Pakistan-China partnership for sustainable development and shared prosperity. The Indians have an axe to grind here, but there is substantial evidence of their involvement in criminal and terrorist activities inside Pakistan.

GT: What steps are being taken to strengthen people-to-people ties between China and Pakistan?

Hashmi: People-to-people exchanges are a priority area of outreach between our two countries. For example, in 2023, my predecessor and the Embassy organized for the visit of a group of 15 Chinese tour operators to Pakistan. The idea was for them to identify potential packages for Chinese tourists to visit those places. There are different types of packages available, such as adventure tourism in the high mountains, cultural and heritage sites, and other attractions that may interest Chinese tourists. In 2023, 12 group tour operators from Pakistan also visited China for the first time and explored joint plans with their Chinese counterparts.

Also in 2023, the Embassy organized a Gandhara exhibition at the Palace Museum. This exhibition showcased the ancient connection between Pakistan and China, highlighting the people who used to travel between both countries. This exhibition also emphasized the Buddhist connection between the two nations. Many artifacts from that area were brought and displayed at the exhibition. The exhibition has since traveled to Gansu and is currently in Shenzhen, where it will conclude in March this year. These are just two examples of our efforts. Moving forward, we plan to organize and focus more on engaging the youth in various forms.

We are also planning a fashion show and Pakistan cuisine or Pakistani food week this year. We want to showcase that spicy food is not just popular in Sichuan, but also in many parts of Pakistan.

We would like to work more on showcasing similarities between the Yangtze River and the Indus River civilizations in our part of the world, as the two biggest rivers in our two countries. We know that rivers play a major role in the development of civilization.

We are exploring the possibility of hosting exhibitions on various CPEC-related products. So all in all there are a lot of activities planned for this year and beyond to deepen cultural and people-to-people ties.